published Saturday, February 5th, 2011

New inspection confirms problems at Chattanooga Zoo

A Jan. 26-27 federal inspection at the Chattanooga Zoo confirms problems that could have contributed to at least four of 10 recent animal deaths there, according to documents released Friday.

Inspector Susanne Brunkhorst, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, focused much of her three-page inspection report on two marmosets that died after being without food for at least two days and the snow leopard that lost two cubs while locked out of shelter in bad weather.

She also noted feeding problems that she saw herself. The inspection came after USDA received an anonymous complaint and at the invitation of Zoo Director Darde Long after Hank the chimp became the seventh animal to die in a month.

"During the inspection of the petting zoo area, it was noted that the goats and miniature horses were all very busy eating some hay that had just been placed in the hay rack. It was also noted that there was only one small square bale of hay in the loft," Brunkhorst wrote.

"In addition to the 11 goats and 2 minihorses, the camel and the buffalo highlander cross are also fed hay. One bale does not contain enough hay for 15 animals for even one day."

The inspector noted that keeper logs dated Jan. 11 stated hay was getting low and needed to be ordered soon.

On Jan. 23, the log stated the keepers were out of hay and more should be in this week.

"The log stated on 1/24/11 that the animals were acting fussy without the hay to chew on and were being given extra grain," the inspector noted. "Lack of hay/roughage, especially for the ruminant species, can lead to potentially serious health problems."

The inspector ordered the situation to be corrected immediately.

In a written response to the inspector, Long acknowledged some problems, but she also said the zoo will appeal some of the noncompliance items listed by Brunkhorst.

Long said mistakes were made with the marmosets, which are a type of monkey. No keeper was assigned to them.

"This was not a failure of our keepers to provide care, but an oversight by our management team when preparing the schedule," Long's response stated. "We are deeply disturbed by this, and already [have] taken a step to make sure it will not happen again."

She said the step would be to advertise a new position.

"It should be noted that one of the marmosets had been diagnosed with marmoset wasting disease prior to our acquisition from a private owner," she added.

Long said the zoo was not out of hay on the days the inspector visited. Hay was available in another area of the zoo.

"Animals receive their hay ration in the morning, and therefore there was sufficient hay on site for a daily feeding, and hay was delivered the next morning to the zoo. It is not typical for the zoo to be this low, but the delivery had been postponed by the company," Long wrote.

Long's most vigorous objection was in response to inspector's noncompliance notation regarding the pregnant snow leopard. She wrote that the zoo is appealing that finding.

Brunkhorst's inspection notes the pregnant snow leopard was "out on exhibit with the male" in 20- and 30-degree weather "without access to her den."

After keepers let her inside, they found dead cubs on the rock exhibit and in the outside chute.

"The keeper logs and conversations with staff indicated they were aware she was going to have cubs" and that "they were keeping an eye on her."

Brunkhorst wrote that while snow leopards may be used to cold weather, consideration needs to be taken for factors such as pregnancy.

"Correct from this day forward," the inspection ordered on that and several other items.

Long countered: "My point and concern is that based on the one day of breeding we had seen, the scientific knowledge that we have regarding breeding seasons, birth months, etc., we could not have ascertained that this animal was indeed pregnant."

In an interview with the Times Free Press last week, Long said keepers already had built a birthing area and separated the pregnant leopard from the male.

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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Allison12 said...

The Chattanooga Zoo obviously needs alot more oversight and management In this case, animals are not being fed. I think that is a huge problem and show lack of management. They should be ashamed.

February 5, 2011 at 12:40 a.m.
MsHartline said...

Darde Long and any and all "vigorous objectors"...It's NOT about YOU - IT'S ABOUT THE ANIMALS!

February 5, 2011 at 8:51 a.m.
equus157 said...

Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy! By the way, equines should be fed more than once a day!

February 5, 2011 at 9:15 a.m.
tnvols said...

This is not good .........something need to be done , Darde Long .....shame on you

February 5, 2011 at 9:21 a.m.
mommyboots said...

I like how all that comes from Ms. Long's mouth are excuses, not promises to do better. All of this stuff happened on her watch and all she is saying is why it's not her fault. Own up to your mistakes and do better, or find someone else who will!!!

February 5, 2011 at 9:22 a.m.
cannonball said...

Darde needs to think about another line of work.

February 5, 2011 at 9:42 a.m.
Humphrey said...

an outsider perspective here. I wished that we could put the kind of resources in to the zoo that it would take to make it the quality of the tennessee aquarium. Even if it was still small, make it that quality. Maybe even move it to renaissance park so it would be right across the river from the aquarium and attract tourists and downtown visitors. Maybe follow the aquarium's format of having one section mostly Tenn. sorts of animals, and focus on that for growth, but keep the more exotic animals now. But however it was done, to put in the resources from private and public sources to ensure that is top quality. If other communities can do that, I see no reason we can not. Seriously. This is a great community, if everyone pulled together behind that zoo and made it a priority it could be a real jewel.

If we can't make that kind of commitment as a community or we aren't willing to then we should just let it go. Personally I think that would be a terrible loss, and I would hate it, but if we can't as a community ensure it is top quality we should just not do it.

February 5, 2011 at 9:52 a.m.
piper2 said...

Suggest asking Mayor Littlefield for his ' expert' advise and then, as it is obviously a case of cruelty to animals close the place and send the animals to a decent zoo.

February 5, 2011 at 10:01 a.m.
Peta_Guy said...

Darde Long is not only cruel to animals, but to employees also, they should check into the under age drinking and also the marriages that Darde has broken up in her tenure at the zoo, She does not deserve or is she qualified to be a director at the zoo. All these things will come out very soon.

February 5, 2011 at 11:03 a.m.
zoofriend said...

I have seen Darde Long give mouth to mouth to a dyeing muntjac that was vomiting back on her. None of you are even close to having that type of love and commitment. To speak out of ignorance does not make something fact. The best thing the zoo could possibly have is the commitment of Darde Long and this community does not need unethical reporters like we seem to have.

February 5, 2011 at 11:13 a.m.
Peta_Guy said...

Hey Zoofriend, read what has been in the paper straight from her mouth and maybe you'll want to change your mind. The truth is out now!!

February 5, 2011 at 11:18 a.m.
rmdevs said...

Executive Director Dardenelle Long 423.697.1319

This is the Director's info. that is listed on the the zoo website. Overflow her email box with complaints. Does anyone know the name of someone above her that could also be contacted with complaints to get rid of her? This is truly disgusting.

February 5, 2011 at 11:48 a.m.
fairmon said...

I have no value for the city using any tax money to fund a zoo. Those who value the zoo and like to visit and ogle the animals need to contribute enough and charge entry fees to support it. City officials can legislate care requirements without funding the zoo. The zoo was founded 75 years ago, before wide ownership of TVs, Video footage and documentaries of animals in their natural habitat. It seems to border on animal cruelty to incarcerate wild animals and pretend we can simulate their habitat. I have no more value for a city zoo than the zero value I have for Littlefield's politically motivated arts and crafts department with a budget of over 2 million dollars. I saw an ugly monstrosity at Hixson Pike and Access Road yesterday and wondered what does that do for tax payers?

I have nothing against those that are animal lovers just don't ask or require me to help pay for their care. I would bet I am in the majority of tax payers if the issue was voted on.

February 5, 2011 at 12:17 p.m.
wildandfree said...

ok, i have seen first hand the crap going on behind closed doors at the zoo. animals are not being feed correctly, wild animals brought in on rehab are being left to die slowly and painfully because Darde refuses to let any animal be put down, no matter what! and before you agree with her on that, a animal that's been crushed by a car and is bleeding to death from internal bleeding NEEDS TO BE PTS! these friends of the zoo don't have experience with wild animals of any kind, they don't keep proper records on intakes, outgoing, feeding schedules, medication. and when a animal comes in, they let it sit in the back room for days without food and care until they decide they feel like calling a licensed wildlife rehabber. not good!! on top of that, several animals sit in a back room with barely any light and no contact outside of being feed, several of which are exotic pets who could be placed in loving homes or atleast put out on display! something needs to be done or alot more animals are gonna die.

February 5, 2011 at 1:27 p.m.
Allison12 said...

I am no longer in favor of our City taxpayer dollars going to the Zoo, unless they find a professional zoo manager. While the Friends of the Zoo think they are entitled our out taxpayer dollars for this venture, they are not. Based upon the USDA report. I am in favor of major changes at this facility. I do not care what Ms. Long thinks or her excuses, she should not be running the zoo and charged with the well being of these animals.

February 5, 2011 at 1:50 p.m.
1kitty1 said...

Remember there is a city council meeting with the FOZ board on Tues. We all need to go and voice our concerns about this matter!!! LET OUR VOICES BE HEARD!!! Gary Chazen is her boss I think that is what was said in another article in the Chattanoogan, and Darde's lies are also in that article. I agree with obviousman commitment does not equal the truth, and she probably wouldn't of had to give that animal mouth to mouth if she had properly taken care of it in the first place, she lied to taxpayers on the radio and in the paper, she lied to everyone about those animals, why?, maybe to cover something up? I can tell you that I sure as heck will be at that meeting I have some questions that need to be answered, like what is the justification in lying to the public and taxpayers (who pay for the zoo) about the conditions those animals where kept in. And why she is still allowed to be in charge after it being made public that she lied!!!! I loved the Chattanooga zoo as a kid and I used to know people who worked there, they would tell me stories that I never believed about horrible things that happened there. I have changed my opinion about this place now that I know the director is a liar, and those animals died because of human error and lack of proper management. I have to say its pretty bad when the new employees have more education and training than the director herself. Whats the justification in that!

February 5, 2011 at 2:12 p.m.
steve_smith_tn said...

So let me get this straight:

  1. We prosecute people who neglect and/or kill their own animals,
  2. The City pays the Zoo to neglect and/or kill their animals, and
  3. The police department no longer has enough funds to allow policemen to drive patrol cars to and from work.


February 5, 2011 at 2:58 p.m.
1kitty1 said...

I just saw another article about the TVA manager being fired for lying! Maybe someone should take the hint!

February 5, 2011 at 3:08 p.m.
fairmon said...

Seems you have in straight already Steve_Smith_tn. Don't forget the good mayor and council had to increase property taxes 19%, sewer taxes 5.5%, storm water run off fees 3X and inspection and permit fees about $600,000 per year. But we do get arts and crafts displays around town and a poorly run zoo even if they have to mess with our policemen to support them. Do you wonder why out politicians want to be in charge of incarcerating animals in a zoo?

February 5, 2011 at 3:10 p.m.
Mtbird23 said...

There should be no excuses, how would Darde Long like not being fed just like some of the animals but of course chattanooga or darde don't care as long as they make that darn money, or that is the way they have been acting for a long time. Darde Long you can point fingers at all the ex keepers you want but this report has the blood of those animals on your hands. It is time that the Chattanooga Zoo has new leadership. Hey do you want to take this NATIONAL.....because it could be and should be too! This is not good .........something needs to be done , Darde Long .....shame on you.....I agree with that because it is not good. I like how all that comes from Ms. Long's mouth are excuses, not promises to do better. All of this stuff happened on her watch and all she is saying is why it's not her fault, well it is her fault because she is the boss, Own up to your mistakes and do better, or find someone else who expects too because they are the boss and run the place and they are supposed too, a friend of my was working at McKamey's and she got fired because she said the truth about the zoo on how the animals was being treated and the big boss was supposed to be the only boss that could be on camera, since the boss gets all the credit for good things that happen then they should also take the credit for the bad things that happen, chit happens!!! The workers at the Zoo cannot say anything even if it's the truth because they will get fired from their jobs....thats not right either, why do you think there is no complaints, the zoo just keeps on doing all the wrong stuff for that reason, especially people that work there should be able to say anything wrong and nothing done to them and Darde then it is your responsibility to fix it because you or the big, bad, boss. Its funny that dardy has put the staff on a six day work week to meet a.z.a regulations. shouldnt she already meet those regulations? your damage control is not going to work this time

February 5, 2011 at 4:20 p.m.
heneh said...

If the zoo can not take care of the animals properly then give them to another zoo somewhere. They should not have to suffer any more from neglect.

February 5, 2011 at 7:50 p.m.
jpo3136 said...

I read the reports, and I am not upset with the zoo. These are all fixable problems; and, they are the types of problems that will occur in institutions that require daily maintenance.

One course of action can include rotations. The staff is exposed to the same environment every day. While this can promote an intimate knowledge; it can also promote tolerance through mental fatigue with unsolved problems. Rotations with other facilities can help to keep the staff fresh. This promotes problem solving.

Systemic problems like lack of transportation or procurement of routine foods: this is a sign of staff fatigue. Further, the fatigue may be beyond the staff at the zoo; it takes leadership to instill in people in support roles the importance of the tasks at hand.

I was not particularly disturbed by the animal deaths, in and of themselves. The systemic logistic problems are serious; but, the deaths seem to be within expectations for the population at hand and the direct support provided from the responsible government institution. To improve conditions, we have got to get those critical logistic support systems up to speed. We should see excellence in support, not repetitive problems with routine deliveries. Something is wrong there.

Have city or county officials bothered to visit the zoo staff and see this facility? How much time have local government leaders spent with interacting with these employees on routine visits?

If the leader does not arrive, then the people at this station will feel alone. Executives need to make their rounds, even if it seems like it is only a visit. It's important and it works.

We can get these problems corrected without being nasty to our staff at the zoo. We should come to understand and improve how this food gets transported and stored. We should look carefully at how well or how poorly we are funding this operation.

By some estimates, the City spends three times as much on public golf courses. Where was the public's concern when the budget was established for the zoo, back then? Did anyone really believe that 1/3 of what we spend on golf would be adequate?

In general, we need to work on problem solving follow up and basic management communication. It's clear: the zoo has been marginalized in local government leadership. Now there are problems.

Step number one: get leaders over there. Step two: shake hands with the staff and get them to show the zoo. Establish rapport. Gather facts. Open lines of communication which should not have grown closed through neglect or inattention. Provide subordinates with the chance to improve their situation. Empower those subordinates by approving their constructive ideas.

Where are the mayors? This is why we have them.

Get down there and lead those people.

February 5, 2011 at 11:33 p.m.
fairmon said...

The next time you visit the zoo go on down to 11th St. and check out the Community kitchen, go over to 4th Ave. and visit the Salvation Army, visit with Habitat for Humanity and see who needs your support more, those entities or a zoo for animals. All homeless people are not drug users and are not homeless by choice or because they won't work. The same applies for those that are hungry. Would a homeless person sleeping under an over pass that dies from exposure swell your heart up like a pea as it did over a monkey that died? Why not visit some elderly shut in person and contribute to their needs and quit incarcerating innocent animals for your viewing pleasure.

February 5, 2011 at 11:46 p.m.
jpo3136 said...

When was the last time the Mayors inspected the food delivery system? Ever? When have they received reports about that system's success or failure? Ever? Without accountability and inspection and the occasional presence and interest of appointed leaders, the people participating in those actions may end up feeling like they are a cog in a machine. That method of ignoring daily activities can grind on until, like cogs in a machine, those ignored people can begin to wear down and break.

Executive attention to supply lines and task organization is critical. Every leader should take some time to periodically walk the line.

It's unlikely that any governmental executive whose office is not within sight of that barn has a good idea what's what with that hay.

If we're wrong, and our executives are leading, meeting, observing, training and evaluating, all the way through: then let's hear it.

It's time for the mayors to visit the zoo. The trip should include a walk on over to the barn, and a visit with the guys who truck in the food. What fields do those plants come from? Anywhere around here?

Find out, Mayors. The public will soon want to know.

February 5, 2011 at 11:47 p.m.
nowfedup said...

Isn't it great how well the Zoo operates when it is not longer run by the County, instead is "Out sourced" to "PRIVATE FOR PROFIT" company? Wonder what the political connections were on the bidding, and we all know that a FOR PROFIT firm would never cut corners, higher low wage and such just to increase the PROFITS for shareholders and executive bonus. To bad the animals do not have a say in it, nor do the citizens. Yep "Out source" the new battle cry of Corp/LLC USA.

February 5, 2011 at 11:59 p.m.
fairmon said...


you are sick if you consider animals just as important as humans. Those advocating a zoo and pet ownership should pay all related expense. Don't insist on me supporting those activities directly or with taxes. I don't want the mayor or other tax supported office holders or entities spending one minute or one dime on such a non-essential activity as the zoo. There are issues and needs far more important they could and should spend time on. I prefer donating to human charities such as Community Kitchen, the Salvation Army and other similar worth while charities. I don't expect tax money to go to any of these and prefer the lowest taxes possible so I will have more discretionary money to direct to those I prefer to support.

If you think animals are as important as humans then by all means find enough like minded people to pay for their food, shelter and care. Form a friends of the zoo committee and be the owners, buy the property, select your own care takers. Become a good tax paying contributing entity like other businesses instead of a dependent taker from others that may or may not like animals being in captivity.

February 6, 2011 at 10:11 a.m.
fairmon said...

See 10:11 a.m. 2/6/11 post. Get the message? The majority of citizens of Chattanooga are not concerned about what goes on at the zoo other than how much tax money is required.

February 6, 2011 at 8:33 p.m.
ZooFriend2011 said...

I have been a long time zoo supporter and these reports deeply sadden me, but don't to much surprise me. Over the years I have seen many employees come and go and sadly many of the great ones are gone. It seems to me Darde's act has finally been revealed, she was hired on because of who she knew and still remains in her position only because of who she knows, and it is time that is stopped. I don't doubt that she loves the animals but just does not have their best interest at heart, as a zoo director should. In my opinion, Holly Lockhart needs to be invited back and given the rightful position as zoo director, animals never starved to death or froze to death under her watch as head of animal care. Many of the keepers who left their jobs due to the poor employee treatment should be allowed back as well. That would answer all the animal care problems right there, because majority of the ones who know what to do and how to do it have gone. i find it extremly sad that the "tax payers" are only mad over the misuse of their funds rather than the care of animals and the upkeep of an important Chattanooga tourist site, but since that is the main focus, let's not forget the large theft that occured this past year at the zoo, under Darde's watch. How does she go unpunshied when over $10,000 has been stolen of OUR funds under HER care? How do you not change one safe code, door lock, or alarm code in more than ten years? I've seen MANY faces working in the gift shop over the years and it seems completely irrational that none of these things change after employees go. I have also been informed that although 2 people were charged, there was another person go free and never even sought after because Darde pointed the fingers at the other suspects and wanted to close the case to give us peace of mind quickly. And lets not forget the audit reports from last year that showed how poorly money was kept up with. More than $300 went missing out of the gift shop safe a few summers ago and according to staff RICK JACKSON, Darde's husband and new head of animal care, was the only person to have went in that safe the evening before the money was reporting missing by gift shop employees and was he punished? No, the issue was swept under the rug, as many issues are. How responsible is a woman who allows employees to drink on the job, let alone minors! After each event employees are allowed to stay and drink if you were part of the "crew", minor or not! Many drink during events! Just sad that this is the kind of woman we allow to run what should be an amazing part of our city! CHANGES NEED TO BE MADE!

February 7, 2011 at 1:26 p.m.
ZooFriend2011 said...

Not only is she irresponsible in MANY ways she is untrustworthy. If the zoo is going to be run this way it is a waste of our money. But people let's not forget that a few years ago before Darde was given complete control things were on the up and up. The animals should be as important as your dollars, it isn't just a place that animals are kept captive for our viewing pleasures, it is a place for education, to teach our children about these animals with up close interaction, to teach people that the animals should not be pets, and to give animals a home! You all should know by now that MANY of the Chatt zoo animals were rescued from peoples homes or from poor conditions! Let's not lose sight of the vision and the reason why the zoo is here!

February 7, 2011 at 1:34 p.m.
Mr_B said...

There seem to be a lot of so called rumors lately about the Chattanooga Zoo. Of course, those of us who have been around a while, remember alot of these rumors. For instance; Animal abuse and animal neglect, have been around since at least the late 80s. Next came underage drinking by the staff and volinteers after the events. Then money started coming up missing in the giftshop. This was cleverly covered up by management. Wonder why.Next , The F.O.Z. employee who was found passed out in his car during work hours. Seems he partook of something a little too much. Now it seems we have another rumor. A former maintenance man with F.O.Z. is now Assistant Director. Can you say nepotism,boys and girls. Im sure with all of his credentials,he will know the proper way to care for exotic animals. Listen folks, What you need to ask is; Who owns the animals in the Chattanooga Zoo. The answer is You do. Demand that better care is taken with your animals.One death is bad, but ten is totally unacceptable.

February 7, 2011 at 3:40 p.m.
fairmon said...

Friends of the zoo. The majority of tax payers in the city of Chattanooga have little or no value for having a zoo. How do you convince them it is a good use of their tax money to support one? It would seem that if the number of supporters is significant they could fund, maintain and select a board of directors that hires the manager of their choosing. Most of us view the zoo as non-essential and spending time and tax money on it unnecessary.

Those caring so much about the fate of the remaining incarcerated animals should be advocating moving them to another zoo like Atlanta and closing this one. Or, get on with making the zoo an independent self supporting tax paying non-profit or for profit entity.

February 8, 2011 at 3:48 a.m.
zoofriend said...

looks like zoofriend2011 forgot about her abortion being paid for when she was desperate. Only when it works best for you.

February 8, 2011 at 3:40 p.m.
ZooFriend2011 said...

Hey zoofriend you must have me mixed up with somebody else, abortion? Not I. Let's not get our panties in a wad because the truth is being exposed and hey taxpayers, how do u like that added information, an abortion paid for by YOUR money. HA.

You know i totally disagree with the thought of the Chattanooga Zoo being closed, it really is an asset to the city, especially with it's afforable pricing (considering most of Chatt's attrations are way too pricey for the average family), but if Darde and her clan of crooks can't be over turned, it may be the only solution for the animals.

February 8, 2011 at 4:29 p.m.
keepergyrl102 said...

OK, If you read the USDA reports and the Audit reports I just dont understand how Dardy Long is still running the Chattanooga Zoo? "Disciplinary action needs to be taken" is all in the audit report referring to Dardy having disciplinary action take against her because of mismanagement of taxpayer money and funds! Did this happen to her at all? I never heard anything else about it if it did, was her punishment giving her complete control over the zoo? Wow, if so, um I need to be punished to with my own "not for profit" organization! PLEASE!!!!!??????

February 8, 2011 at 9 p.m.
ZooFriend2011 said...

Obviousman you took the words right outa' my mouth!!

February 9, 2011 at 11:01 a.m.

well chris downey ran rehab at the zoo and killed animals just to be doing it he put theme in the freezer why they were still alive he cut a turtles head off why it was there for rehab for the fun of it.but nothing was ever done because he is dardy and ricks number one they lie and cover up so much stuff there dont call mackamey about theme because the lady there and dardy are best friends.the zoo needs a new leader not a killer of animals just there for a paycheck like dardy and rick and most of theme that work there are.i know whats going on im there every day and see it.

July 12, 2011 at 6:46 p.m.
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